A Medical Malpractice Lawyer’s 5 Tips for Patient Safety Awareness Week
As Patient Safety Awareness Week comes to an end, I want to leave you with some safety tips that I’ve learned from my years of representing clients in medical malpractice cases. While injuries from medical malpractice can happen to anyone, these five tips can help reduce the chance of medical negligence happening to you.
- Be an Advocate: Doctors and nurses are humans just like the rest of us. They can make simple mistakes like everyone else; however, the consequences of their errors can be devastating for a patient and his or her family. If you or a loved one ends up in the hospital, you can help avoid mistakes by making sure orders are followed up on, calls for consults are made, and appropriate medications are administered. It is always recommended that you maintain a cordial and amiable attitude, but you should not be afraid to politely ask questions (Has the doctor been called? What do I need to do? What orders are still outstanding?) and speak up for yourself or your loved one if you think something isn’t right. And if you’ve tried everything and you’re still not getting any answers, don’t be afraid to go up the chain of command and speak with the hospital’s Risk Management department.
- Choose the Right Provider: Many times we have decisions to make in choosing what doctors we go to for a particular ailment. Before I choose a new doctor, I start by asking around to friends and family about whom they have gone to and whom they might recommend. I then look them up online to see their credentials, and then I scan the public court docket and Department of Health licensing website to make sure there are no red flags. I sometimes check online reviews to see if any patients had bad experiences. In doing all of this, it is important to know that one lawsuit or a single negative review does not mean that the person is a bad doctor – so it’s important to look at the big picture and for serious causes for concern.
- Get a Second (or Third) Opinion: Before any big procedure or medical decision, patients need to know that they always have the right to get a second opinion. Second (or even third) opinions are common in the medical field, and doctors should not be upset if you are seeking someone else’s thoughts on your plan of care. My experience is that the best doctors encourage you to get a second opinion, since they are confident that they’ve made the appropriate recommendation. Some doctors are more conservative when it comes to treatment, while others are more proactive or willing to take more risks – doctors have different opinions all the time. It is your right as a patient to make sure you’re hearing the full range of treatment options so that you can make a fully educated decision for your healthcare.
- Have a Buddy: If you or a loved one is in the hospital, there is a lot going on for you. You might be emotional, you might be nervous, and you might be scared. This makes it incredibly difficult to listen to what the medical professionals are telling you, and what the treatment options might be. Even if you feel like you completely understand what the doctor is saying and what the recommended plan of care is, I recommend having someone else there with you to help you recall what was said during the doctor’s or nurse’s visit. And if you can’t have someone there in person, call someone and put them on speaker phone so the doctor can tell both of you. This will help you make informed decisions for your care, and it will also force the doctor to explain things a bit more thoroughly.
- Take Notes: Medical errors can happen as a result of health care providers not knowing a patient’s full history. By taking notes of your treatment in a hospital, your outpatient doctor can have a full understanding of everything that was (or wasn’t) done during your hospital stay. This will then help him or her understand your full clinical presentation, without anything being left out. It will also help you keep track of pending orders, so you can make sure the treatment plan gets carried out. And if there’s ever an emergency where you’re not able to communicate, your notes will be invaluable to your family members and health care providers. In addition, while we hope there’s never a need for you to be involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit, a patient’s contemporaneous notes can be extremely helpful in a case – especially when those notes contradict what is in the medical records.
Jonathan Freidin is a medical malpractice lawyer at Freidin Brown, P.A. representing victims of health care negligence throughout the entire state of Florida. If you think you or a loved one was injured as a result of medical negligence of a doctor, nurse, or hospital, Jonathan can be reached for a free and confidential case consultation at 305-371-3666.